By Ugo Aliogo
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the Senate and House of Representatives yesterday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the passage of the audit bill in order to win the anti-corruption fight embarked upon by the administration.
They explained that with the passage of the law, anti-corruption agencies such as Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would be fully empowered to fight corruption, adding that the present anti-graft war was targeted at individuals rather than holistic fight to improve the country.
They disclosed this at a two-day retreat organised by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation (OAuGF) in Lagos, in partnership with the Public Accounts Committees of the National Assembly with the theme; â€˜A Must for the Entrenchment of Transparency and Accountability in a Growing Democracyâ€™
Speaking, Chairman of Public Accounts Committee in the House of Representatives, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, said the passage of the bill would entrench the administration fight against corruption.
He noted that if the administration was serious about the anti-graft war, there was need for the speedy passage and assent to the bill so that it becomes a law, thereby empowering those institutions responsible in the anti-graft war.
Chinda lamented that agencies such as the OAuGF were vital in the anti-graft war, but the agency was not being funded and given the needed support like other agencies.
â€œThere is need to pass the bill and change our approach towards the OAuGF. Therefore, the OAuGF will also provide information to the EFCC because from the audit report, you will see obvious cases of corruption that are going on. Therefore, if the bill is passed and the OAuGF is recognized, it will be the beginning of the anti-corruption fight.â€
Earlier in his remarks, the Auditor General of the Federation, Mr. Anthony Ayine, said transparency and accountability were key pillars to good governance, while commending President Muhammadu Buhari administration for its firm and principled stance in the fight against corruption.
He explained that there was need for a close working relationship between the Public Accounts Committees of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the OAuGF, stressing that it was vital in the interest of good governance and public accountability.
In explaining the process of public accountability, he said the parliament entrusted government with public funds which in turn they reported back to parliament how resources had been used or utilised, stating that in-between this process lies two critical bodies which were at the heart of public accountability; PAC and OAuGF.Â
Ayine further stated that as it was the practice in developed economies,Â within 90 daysÂ of submission of PACâ€™s report and consideration by the National Assembly, the Executive Arm was required to respond in form of a memorandum, indicating what actions had been taken or proposed to be taken in relation to PACâ€™s findings and recommendations, thus completing the accountability cycle.
According to him, â€œThe fundamental function of the auditor-general is the protection of public interest, through a detailed and objective examination of public accounts and timely reporting to the legislature, to enable it ascertain how the resources entrusted to government had been utilised.
â€œIndependent audits carried out by the auditor-general helps to give assurance; public accountability is diminished without such independent audits. PAC on the other hand, assists parliament in ensuring that public funds are used in keeping with the intentions of government, particularly as regards economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the use of such funds.
â€œPAC also has to consider to what extent the desired outputs, outcomes and impacts had been achieved. PACâ€™s role, therefore, is not only complementary to that of the auditor-general, but when properly played, helps to strengthen the Office of the Auditor-General.â€